Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A different look at healthcare

This year's HeathGrid conference is being co-located with CMBS 2011 - the 24th International Symposium on Computer-Based Medical Systems.

Listening to the CBMS talks is a bit of a change for me as I usually go along to conferences that deal with DCIs (distributed computing infrastructures). But today I've heard all about how computing is assisting medical decision-making, as well as how it's dealing with the different ontologies used in the profession.

In this area computers seem to more often be used to assist work of doctors rather than to replace their existing way of doing things. For example, in a talk this morning, we were shown an automated medical decision support system which can help doctors to diagnose diseases. The system uses information provided by misdiagnoses to associate diseases with related symptoms so, the next time a diagnosis is made, it can suggest diseases that are likely to be the cause. A key feature of the system is that it learns from the experience of doctors' past decisions, which are entered in every time a disease is diagnosed. If a doctor uses the system for a year, it will gain a year's worth of knowledge, and can be used to assist those with less experience.

A following presentation dealt with a project that used mobile phones to record ECG beats in patients suffering from cardiac disease. In developing countries, with limited hospital bed spaces, this could help clinicians to monitor patients remotely. Patients would wear an electrocardiograph which send information via bluetooth to their phone, and ultimately to the hospital via a 3G connection. However, in Brazil for example, there are 3G shadows, meaning that real time monitoring is impossible in some areas. So the project we heard about is trying to transfer the ECG analysis onto the phone itself, which can give prediagnosis to the patient or paparmedic in an emergency.

All in all it's been quite an interesting morning. I'm looking forward to learning more at the sessions ahead.

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